New Orleans Embraces Entrepreneur Season: The Idea Village Report

From July to March Collaborative Ecosystem Allocates $2.2 Million in Resources to 553 Local Startups

New Orleans is a city of seasons. Mardi Gras season, festival season and the Saints season. The annual rhythm of this unique city instills culture and pride. In 2012, the New Orleans community firmly embraced The Idea Village’s Entrepreneur Season that engages a collaborative network of partners to identify, support and celebrate local startup ventures. From July to March, The Idea Village executed fourteen innovative programs that connected over 2000 professionals, entrepreneurs, MBAs, corporate partners, investors, economic development partners and VIPs such as Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson, Google’s head of global entrepreneurship Mary Himinkool and TPG Capital co-founder Jim Coulter to deliver direct support to 553 local entrepreneurs by providing over $1.7 million in strategic consulting hours, $325,750 in seed capital and $117,000  in-kind resources through 75 unique events in downtown New Orleans.

The Idea Village’s season concluded during the 4th New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) March 10-16th with The Big Idea, a unique New Orleans style crowd-sourcing pitch extravaganza held at Manning’s at Fulton Street where over 1,500 people allocated $94,750 to 19 New Orleans startups with judging by local celebrities including James Carville, Mary Matalin and Irvin Mayfield.

“The Entrepreneur Season is the annual collaboration between the engaged local and national supporters of New Orleans-based startups, innovators, risk-takers and big ideas,” said Tim Williamson, cofounder and CEO of The Idea Village, the organizer of NOEW.  “This connected ecosystem is the reason New Orleans’ entrepreneurial activity is 40% above the national average and our city is ranked as the #1 brain magnet in the country by Forbes.”

Jim Coulter, founder of the Coulter IDEApitch at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, adds, “New Orleans is a special city and now entrepreneurs have a collaborative network to start and grow their ventures. National investors are starting to take notice of this strong entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

New Orleans ecosystem partners collaborate throughout the year to support the local entrepreneurial community. The season culmination each March, New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, puts the spotlight on New Orleans’ most promising startups by engaging a global network to provide direct resources to entrepreneurs. In addition to the work of thousands of individuals, local organization partners include:  4.0 Schools, Abstraction Ventures, Collaborative for Enterprise Development, Downtown Development District of New Orleans, GNO, Inc., Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Launch Pad Ignition, Louisiana Technology Council, New Orleans Bio-Innovation Center, New Orleans Business Alliance, New Orleans Startup Fund, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, SENO, Southcoast Angels, Teach for America, Tulane University, Urban League.

Mary Himinkool, head of global entrepreneurship at Google, the premier partner of the 2012 Entrepreneur Season believes the city has created a blueprint with international implications. “The New Orleans entrepreneur ecosystem is a model for the world because of the engagement at all levels of leadership”, says Ms. Himinkool. “Google looks forward to deepening our relationship with The Idea Village and New Orleans to promote entrepreneurship and develop best practices for nurturing an entrepreneurial movement.”

The Idea Village’s 2012 Entrepreneur Season:

  • 2153 local entrepreneurs applied to participate in The Idea Village programs
  • 553 ventures received direct support through education and acceleration programs from October to March.
  • 57 local entrepreneurs were selected by ecosystem partners to participate in 12 innovative programs during NOEW including consulting, speed pitches, crowd funding and professional investor pitches.
  • 26 of these entrepreneurs received $325,750 in seed capital and direct access to investors: Advercar, AMPS,  Be Well Health, Bluebag, Bissap Breeze, ChapterSpot, Classroom Blueprint, Connect for a Cause, Dash, Designer Social, Digit, Giftmeo, Kickboard, Kinobi, LiaMolly, LifeCity, MATTER, NanoFex,, Senica, Solarchitect, Tierra Resources, Unawkward, Volnado, Whetstone, The Wooden Spoon.

Jen Medbery’s Kickboard, winner of the prestigious Coulter IDEApitch, is a product of the New Orleans entrepreneurial ecosystem.  “Collaboration is the new competition,” says Medbery.  “From concept through multiple iterations and rounds of investment I’ve been embraced by virtually every member of the New Orleans entrepreneurial network.”

The Idea Village Entrepreneur Season-2012
Each year, The Idea Village executes an Entrepreneur Season that identifies, supports and celebrates high impact entrepreneurial talent in the New Orleans region. The season, beginning each July with entrepreneur intake and culminating each March in New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, features a wide range of entrepreneur acceleration programs, educational workshops and investor presentations. Participants advance their businesses by accessing The Idea Village’s network of experts, mentors and through peer to peer interactions with like-minded entrepreneurs.

2012 Idea Village Program and Partners:

  • IDEAinstitute [Free Education workshops]:  553 local entrepreneurs participated in 60 free workshops hosted by entrepreneurs, business leaders, Jones Walker, Baker Donelson, Goldman Sachs and included key note sessions from Walter Isaacson, James Coulter, Matt Flannery and David Kappos.
  • IDEAxcelerator [Business Development]: 18 local startups were selected through a competitive process to participate in an intensive six-month business accelerator program managed by a team of Entrepreneur-in-Residences, Kevin Wilkins and Doug Walner, to identify and address key growth challenges. Participating ventures include: APMT, AMPS, Bayou Native, Be Well Nutrition, BlueBag, ChapterSpot, DesignerSocial, Dukky, Huka, NanoFex,, NOvate, SOLarchitect, Tierra Resources, True See, VoiceHit, WhetStone and Zingboard.
  • The Coulter IDEApitch [Access to Venture Funding]: Kickboardwon the 3rd annual Coulter IDEApitch and a trip to Silicon Valley for meetings with key investors. Seeded by TPG cofounder Jim Coulter, the Coulter IDEApitch took place in front of over 250 New Orleans business, civic and entrepreneurial leaders and the winner is chosen through a combination of panel deliberation and audience voting. Ecosystem partners nominated four New Orleans high growth ventures, Kickboard, Theodent, VoiceHIT and Voteit, to present to a panel comprised of Jim Coulter, Jim Counihan (Prism VentureWorks), Will Porteous (RRE Ventures) and Mary Himinkool (Google Ventures).
  • Power Pitch [Access to Angel Funding]: AdverCar, won Power Pitch and a trip to New York to meet with NYC angel investors. Twelve local entrepreneurs who have received local angel funding participated in this fast paced investor meeting. Local partners included Abstraction Ventures, Launchpad Ignition, Southcoast Angels, New Orleans Startup Fund, New Orleans Bioinnovation Center & RIO. National investors participating on the panel included principles from: RRE Ventures, Laconia Ventures, General Atlantic, Canaan Partners, Calvert Funds, Lot 18, NBC News Digital.
  • The Big Idea [Crowd Funding for Startups]: SOLarchitect, was the overall $50,000 winner by a combination of audience and judging panel vote from a celebrity judging panel consisted of James Carville, Jim Coulter, Mary Matalin, Irvin Mayfield & Jon Swartz of USA Today. The Big Idea is an innovative approach to community engagement and crowd-sourced funding as the first 1,000 people received a $50 chip that they subsequently allocated to their favorite of the 19 entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs nominated by the ecosystem partners and receiving funding from The Big Idea event were:  AMPS, Be Well Nutrition, Bissap Breeze, Bluebag, ChapterSpot, Connect for a Cause, Classroom Blueprint, Dash, DesignerSocial, Dig*It, Giftmeo, Kinobi, LiaMolly,, Matter L3C, Tierra Resources and Unawkward.  
  • Water Challenge [Targeted Industry Program]: Tierra Resources won $50,000 in seed capital at the 2nd annual Water Challenge, a six month acceleration program for water related entrepreneurs that included full day sessions focused on nurturing entrepreneurship in the water industry and included a keynote from Senator Mary Landrieu, panel discussions and networking with the water community. The Water Challenge is a partnership between the Greater New Orleans Foundation and The Idea Village.
  • Education Challenge [Targeted Industry Program]: Classroom Blueprint won $15,000 from the Education Challenge, a 6 month education and business development program for Teach for American corps members to develop entrepreneurial ventures that close the education gap. Others entrepreneurs presenting included Dash, Youth Run Nola and 504 HealthNet. Education Challenge partners include Google, 4.0 Schools, Coleman Foundation and Teach for America.
  • Tulane Challenge [University Partnership]: Tulane University generated technology NanoFexwon the $50,000 Tulane Challenge, an effort to showcase Tulane originated ventures and entrepreneurial support programs at the University. Tulane Challenge partners include Levy Rosenblum Institute, Tulane Technology Transfer Office, Social Entrepreneurship Initiative and TABA.
  • Flex Fund [Collaboration to support lifestyle businesses]: Bissap Breeze won $70,000, Senicawon $20,000, Life City secured $5000 and Wooden Spoonwas awarded $5000 through a fast paced speed pitch with 20 local leaders. Flex Fund provides a nine month business acceleration program for lifestyle entrepreneurs that include seminars, workshops and an innovative peer to peer loan program. Flex Fund is a project of the Collaboration for Enterprise Development that includes:  Capital Access, Goodwork Network, The Idea Village and Newcorps.
  • Challenge [Corporate Engagement Program]: Whetstone received $5000 in services and support from to assist in the implementation and execution of a CRM platform for this education startup. This innovative partnership connects talent and resources within corporations to local entrepreneurs.
  • Speed to Seed [Corporate Engagement Program]: Be Well Nutrition won $5000 in a fast paced pitch competition with the local business community. Speed to Seed partners included IBERIABANK, Jones Walker, Reily Foods, JP Morgan Chase, Baker Donelson, Harrahs, Hornets and Goldman Sachs.
  • IDEAcorps Challenge [University Service Learning Program]: Dartmouth Tuck School of Business IDEAcorps MBA team won the annual IDEAcorps MBA Pitch for their work consulting with Idea Village client ChapterSpot.  IDEAcorps program brings teams of students from the top MBA schools to provide direct impact to local startups. Sixty MBA students spent one week immersing themselves into their entrepreneur’s business and New Orleans.  The goal of IDEAcorps is to create meaningful impact for their entrepreneurs and to introduce them to the vibrant entrepreneurial community in the city.  Other Universities participating in the 2012 IDEAcorps program include Harvard University, Columbia University, Yale University, Duke University and Loyola University.
  • The Brees Dream Trust Your Crazy Ideas Challenge [High School Education Program]: Edna Karr High School won $10,000 at the 2nd annual Trust Your Crazy Ideas Challenge for the innovative business idea #NOLALOVE. Other participating high schools included Warren Easton School, Lusher and Cohen. TYCI partners include: the Brees Dream Foundation and Google.
  • Aspen Institute Seminar: The 2012 Idea Village Entrepreneur Season culminated with a unique opportunity for New Orleans entrepreneurial community. The Idea Village has partnered with The Aspen Institute for the season’s final program that connects 22 top entrepreneurial leaders in New Orleans to reflect on how their entrepreneurial skills can be applied to the broader community. Facilitated by Aspen Institute Trustee and Executive Vice President Peter Reiling, the entrepreneurs will apply the time-tested Aspen technique of “text-based dialogue” — using the writings of some of the world’s greatest thinkers as a springboard to a focused dialogue to apply their energies, creativity and resources to building a better society.

Check out media highlights from the week including articles in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Good, and the Huffington Post.